Out

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Edward 40Hands - Mom Jeans.

Benji

Aspen stared at me with such intensity, I could feel nervous giggles rising up in my throat. "You have something important to tell me and it is....." she prompted, licking frosting off a cupcake leftover from Thomas' birthday party. We were sitting in the basement. Jey was cross-legged on the floor, painting flowers on the collar of a denim jacket he had picked up at the thrift store. I swallowed hard and put on my best serious face. "Aspen," I said gently, taking one of her hands in mine, "I just want you to know that what I'm about to tell you doesn't change who I am at all. I'm still your little Benji Boy." Aspen threw her head back and cackled. "This is serious," I whispered, desperately trying to conjure up a single tear, "I'm gay." She laughed even harder, flopping back onto the couch. I couldn't help but smile. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and nodded very solemnly, "that was a very beautiful coming out Benji Boy." She broke down into another fit of giggles.

Since our conversation outside the mall, I had been thinking a lot about what Jey had said to me. His words had been jabbing, but I was thinking more and more that he was right. There was really no reason for me not to come out. I knew my parents would be fine with it. Although, Mom seemed to already have figured it out. The guys would probably give me shit about it, but since Jey and I had been spending more time together and since I had spent more time with Aspen, I found myself caring less and less what they thought. I had known Simon and TJ since I was a kid. We used to ride our bikes around the neighborhood, pretending they were horses and we were cowboys. But, in eighth grade, Simon had gotten his first girlfriend and his family moved across town to a nicer neighborhood all in one week. Since then, I still considered him my best friend, but I had noticed little red flags about his personality here and there. They just hadn't been sitting right with me. Like how he occasionally used 'gay' to mean lame and still used the word 'retarded' to call people stupid. TJ still hung around some. He and Aspen were kind of friends and when she wasn't with us, she was often with him. I suspected he had a little bit of a crush on her between the manic-pixie-dream-girl nicotine addiction and snide remarks and her signature doc martens, beaten to hell. They made a good pair. He was unreasonably tall and willowy, dark and quiet. It was a refreshing contrast to Aspen's stout curves and white-blonde hair. As far as my coming out, I actually had no idea how he would take it. But Aspen was pretty open about being queer and he still followed her around like a puppy dog.

All in all, I couldn't really think of a good reason not to come out at school. I really did want to be able to hold Jey's had in public and really feel comfortable in my own skin. I just had years of internalized masculinity to work through. As if he were reading my mind, Jey reached out a hand to my knee. "You okay?" he asked softly, "you look far away." I nodded, leaning over to kiss the top of his head. "Just thinking," I replied. He smiled up at me, his cheeks pink and warm and I wanted to fold into him forever. I wanted to never leave the basement and face the world, but I knew I had to do something for him. I heard my dad come home then, the sound of him shuffling around to put up his coat and shoes familiar. I stood and held one hand out to each Aspen and Jey. "C'mon," I said, taking a deep breath, "I need you guys to come with me."

Upstairs, my parents were sitting on the couch talking about their day. My mom was laughing as she told him a story about one of her coworkers slipping and falling in the break room. Thomas was sitting on the floor playing his Switch, and Zoe was braiding friendship bracelets, trying not to look like she was listening to Mom. They all looked at me as I entered the room and I suddenly felt blood rush up my neck into my cheeks. "Uh, hi," I cleared my throat, "I just wanted to talk to you guys about something really quick." Mom and Dad turned to face me, their hands clasped on the couch cushion between them. "What is it, hon?" Mom asked.
"Listen, I don't really want this to be a big deal," I began, "Because it's not. But you guys deserve to know." A concerned look spread across Dad's face and Thomas looked up from his game. "I just..." I sighed, holding my hands out from my side, "I'm gay."
Mom's face split into a big, gentle smile. She rose to come hug me, resting her head against my shoulder. My dad snorted a little, "Benji, do you really think that needs to be a big deal?"
I raised an eyebrow at him and he waved a hand passively at Jey, "ever since Curly started coming around, we kind of just figured that's what it was. We thought you just didn't feel like you needed to officially 'come out.' Which would've been fine."
I was shocked. I didn't really feel like Jey and I had been that obvious, but I guess none of my other guy friends had come around nearly as much as he had. I was sure now that him telling them that he had been kicked out for his sexuality just sealed the deal.
"You like boys?" Thomas interjected suddenly.
I laughed, "yeah, buddy. I like-like boys."
He looked back down at his video game, "cool."
Mom laughed then, too. "We love you, Ben," she said, smoothing my hair, "no matter what." She moved over to Jey and pulled him into a hug, too, "and we're glad you're around Jorge."

Later that night, I was laying in bed staring at the ceiling. The moon was casting long shadows around the room and I was just starting to drift off to sleep when I heard my door open quietly. "Benji are you awake?" Jey's soft whisper floated across the room. I rolled over in response, pushing back the blankets and patting the bed for him to lay next to me. He climbed in, pulling the comforter up to his nose and snuggling into me. He was shirtless and his skin was warm against mine. He tilted his head up toward mine and I kissed him gently. "Thank you," he whispered.
"For what?" I said into his lips.
"For today. I mean I know it wasn't all for me. But it felt good for you to publicly acknowledge that I'm your boyfriend."
"Oh you're my boyfriend now?" I put as much playfulness into my voice as possible and kissed him again, but even in the darkness I could see his cheeks redden.
"Well I just thought that...since you know we...um..."
He stumbled over his words and it made my heart flutter. He looked so beautiful laying there next to me, the light from outside making his hair glow silvery. He closed his eyes and buried his face against my chest, wrapping his arms around me. We laid there quietly, his fingers tracing shapes on my back. It took me a long time, but I finally realized he was writing letters. I grinned.
"I love you, too," I whispered, feeling sleep start to wash over me.

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